Monday, September 30, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Vicarious Trauma

One thing that is making this year tough in terms of exhaustion is the sheer amount of trauma that my students are dealing with. We learned about "vicarious trauma" -- that when your students are going through traumatic events, that you worry about them and think about their situations and can only make school as safe and warm a place as you can but can't make outside of school not sucky, and then you are feeling some of the ripple effects of trauma on the body.

This year I have students who: have been sexually abused, are in mental health crisis, are dealing with new medications for anxiety and depression, are dealing with identity and birth family (especially mental health, drug usage, and death of birth family members), are in foster care, had a family member overdose and die recently, who were adopted from other countries and have attachment issues due to orphanage babyhoods, who sustained major health trauma as a result of their biological history and are dealing with the lifelong impacts of that, who have sustained up to 7 surgeries in 10 years, who believe firmly that their only future is a short one as a drug dealer, whose lives have been disrupted by a new baby in the house that's 13 years younger than them, who had a parent die when they were 2... the list just goes on and on and on.

I am doing some reading on Trauma-Sensitive Classrooms, because while I think I'm a pretty empathetic person I want to make sure that I'm doing all I can to support these kids as they try to get an education while dealing with all of those things. And I want to help others add to their toolboxes for supporting kids who hurt, and who ask for help in less than cuddly ways.

I also feel a little overwhelmed because my classes are full of students who are dealing with aftershocks of foster adoption and international adoption, and it is really driving it home to me how I did not choose those pathways to parenthood for a reason. I absolutely could not do what I do all day with multiple children if I was also helping someone navigate the same trauma at home.

It's weirdly vindicating, but also makes me sad. I do think though that I can give more of myself to help these students gain resiliency and have a safe place in a learning environment than if I was parenting one of them myself. I have to remind myself that as challenging as it is to hear about their trauma and have my heart hurt for their pain, it's so much harder for them to live it.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Monday, September 23, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: September Is Brutal

I cannot believe it is the last week of September already. I feel like I have been dropped down a black hole of time where I keep trying to get on top of things to balance my life out, but I'm somehow always at the bottom of that swirly hole, looking up. 

I am enjoying this year so far, but it is CONSUMING my every waking moment. I have somehow managed to be perfectly well Monday-Friday and then collapse into either stomach bug illness, scratchy sore throat, or migraine with vomiting on Saturdays. I think it's because I'm exhausted and go-go-go-ing at school all week, and then phoof, deflated once I can take a breather. 

Part of the reason is that I teach three self-contained classes in a row periods 1-3 (12:1:1 social studies, 15:1 Reading, 15:1 English), and so I had better be ready and prepped to go first thing in the morning. Another part is that I'm diving into the world of Google Classroom and trying to go all paperless and high-tech, and I'm finding that the connectivity of it is awesome but somehow I feel like it is more time consuming than paper assignments...but totally worth it. A third part is that my caseload is challenging, not because of significant behaviors but because of the boatload of trauma these kids are lugging with them all day, and a high energy vibe that needs to be harnessed for good. 

More on that later, but I have this feeling that because I don't have kids, I am doing a piss-poor job of balancing work and home since I don't have to drive anyone anywhere, I don't have to get people off to bed or help them with homework, so I tend to devote all my time to the gazillion things I want to do for school. I stay too late. I stay up too late working on stuff. I find myself staring at the clock in my office in disbelief as it speeds past 9:30, 10, 10:30 and I'm still in the middle of stuff. 

It will get easier, though... by the time October rolls around (shockingly soon), I should have a better handle on what I need to do for this group (really these groups) of kids and what I need to do to balance things out more for myself. Feeling healthier on the weekend should help too...I keep losing Saturday to feeling like crap and then Sunday comes and I have to get right back to planning and grading and documenting. 

It's a good thing I absolutely love my job, because it's kinda sorta killing me! But yeah, September is brutal. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Story Behind the Picture

Open House Night was last night, and that makes for the longest two days in my opinion of the teaching year. I worked a full day yesterday, from 7:30-5, then raced home to shower and change (it was DISGUSTING in the school yesterday, high heat and humidity) and come back for 8 minute presentations to parents mimicking the school day from 6:30 - 8:30. So that day is long, and then you come in Thursday morning exhausted and braindead, and so the day seems to drag again and your stores of energy are depleted. It can't be just me who feels so utterly drained the day after Open House.

I've written about Open House before, and how torturous it was when going through infertility treatments and then adoption. I've had full on anxiety attacks while making it through this night in the midst of my own personal tragedies.

But, I didn't expect to end my night last night in tears on my couch. I thought I was "past that." Hmmph.

Here's what happened.

Everyone loves to include their children and grandchildren on their slides for Open House. Let the parents know who we are! Who are we as PEOPLE, not just teachers! It quickly becomes a litany of baby pictures, adorable children pictures, and presenting new grandchildren. Which is great, for those who have those sorts of things. To be the coteacher who has to follow slides full of extensive family trees with pictures completely devoid of children (look at my husband! my cat! my books! my garden! a trail near my house!) is a little...painful. It feels like an amplified contrast.

This is my first year coteaching 8th grade Science, which is an exciting new adventure. I decided for that class, the last of the night (I cheated and talked about my 9th period Study Skills class during lunch so we could all leave ahead of the traffic crush), my slide would be nothing but a picture of ME. As a 7-8 year old. With my chemistry set.

Me, circa about 1984
I felt I could make a joke about poor lab safety (look at those chemicals near the pancakes and bananas!) I thought it would be adorable. Maybe it would even distract from the fact that I have no adorable tiny people who look kinda sorta like me (or not) to share with the other parents.

It sucks to feel so Other. I may have mentioned my National Board Certification more times than was truly necessary because I didn't get to say I had kids in the district or who went through the schools or that I could also say "As A Parent."

So when this picture came up, I said, "This is not my child, this is ME." And then went ahead and made all my corny jokes.

It didn't catch up with me until I got home, and the thing that I felt was so empowering just moments ago felt instead a little hollow, and sad. Like I am my own small child to share to feel like I'm like everyone else. I also felt a pang of empathy for those who also don't have kids, or who aren't married or coupled, and may or may not feel even more Other on such nights.

I cried when I got home, for that little girl who once wanted to be a scientist and was slowly discouraged at school from pursuing math and science. For the woman who wanted a small child to encourage and raise into a good human at home. For the couple who wanted to share their passions and help a small human discover theirs, but it just wasn't to be. For feeling apart on a night meant to be unifying. I felt that loss acutely last night.

I feel lucky that I can love on my students and devote all my "mom-ing" energy to them. I loved that I inserted my own childhood photo as a sort of seditious act, a sort of "I don't have my own kids but look at me as a child, just as relevant even if it's a little weird."

I was just caught off guard that that picture ended up sparking such a wave of sadness afterwards. Maybe it was fueled in part by exhaustion. Maybe it was fueled in part by the onslaught of "my kids my kids my kids" from other teachers, the slideshow at the beginning of the year, and Facebook Back to School posts that are STILL COMING thanks to Preschool.

Honestly, it's probably both.

Monday, September 9, 2019

#Microblog Mondays: Lucky Guilt

So, I was one of the lucky 800 people who received a copy of Margaret Atwood's The Testaments from Amazon, early.

I was super excited at first, but then I found out my gain was the result of Amazon breaking the embargo set by the publisher to release 9/10... They released some a full week early.

My gain was the indie bookstores' loss, although I did preorder from Amazon so I can't be too sanctimonious about it. Although I do love supporting my local bookstores, I wanted it delivered to my house.

But I did decide not to read it until tomorrow (but also because Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake came out the same day and I've been clamoring for that last installment in that series!).

Tomorrow night I'm also going to a streamed live interview with Margaret Atwood at the theater nearby with friends, and that will be the breaking of the Testaments seal.

Would you have waited, or taken advantage of the windfall of a book released too early?

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!